My mother used to say that I spent all the time in the world getting organized to study for my exams and left little time for actual studying. And, she’s right. I would spend hours making flash cards, recopying my notes and cleaning up my work space before I would actually “get down to business”. Whereas in school my mom called this “procrastination”, as a business professional I dubbed it, “my process”.
It has taken me my whole life to establish my creative process, and it is absolutely necessary for me to accomplish anything. It is a four-phased process with the first being, “Outer Reflects Inner”. This is where I have to get everything clean and organized before I begin, so I can think clearly. I enter this initial phase with the same sense of enthusiasm and possibility that I had buying new school supplies as a child. New notebook and sketch pad? Check. Desk cleaned? Check. Full stock of favorite pens, highlighters, and Sharpies? Check. Check. And check.
The second phase, I’ve come to know as “Productive Procrastination”. This is the point where I am just starting to think about ideas surrounding the creative challenge at hand. It usually begins with a giant list of all the words associated with whatever topic I’m focussing on. In this stage there is no editing, just a complete brain dump. The goal is to be productive and fill up the blank pages before me, which gives my little OCD brain something to chug on while waiting for inspiration to hit.
These first two phases don’t take a lot of brainpower. It’s fun and a form of creative meditation. Phase 3 however requires coffee. Lots and lots of caffeinated coffee. It’s here that the “real work” begins. It’s also my favorite part of any creative project. This is where ideas start rapid fire popping up, one after another usually preceded by exclamations of, “Ooh! Quick, write this down!” and “Why didn’t I think of this before?” It’s at this point that I think I am a screaming genius.
This is immediately followed by Phase 4 where I think I am a complete poser.
This is the “Getting Down to Business” phase of actually producing something. And this is where my insecurities get the best of me. There are over 7 billion people in the world. I’m sure at least a fourth of them are creatives—writers, designers, illustrators, inventors and the like. How can I possibly create something that is uniquely mine, put it out in the world and have it be a success with that kind of competition? And even if I overcame my fears of failure and rejection, what are the chances that I could actually make a living doing it?
It is at this point that the voice in my head always utters the famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”
I ignore the voice and go get a burger.
I straighten up my workspace more and pour another cup of liquid caffeine. I watch trash tv followed by a bubble bath and a glass of wine and all the while I keep hearing a recorded loop in my head saying over and over again, “Just Do It.” “Just Do It.” It’s like Poe’s tell-tale heart and it won’t leave me alone until I actually do it. It’s the only way I’ve found to put an end to the incessant worry, the creative insecurities, and the mental nagging.
I guess my creative process actually has 5 phases: Prepare, Procrastinate, Create, Worry and Just Do it.
Oops, I did it again.